EDITORIAL: Tackle hurdles in Tanzania’s Tourism

Sunday February 14 2016

Tanzania has the great tourism potential. With 947,303 square kilometres, it has reserved 28 per cent of land for nature.

Tanzania’s tourism generated $2.05 billion from 1,140,156 visitors in 2014. It provides 600,000 direct jobs to Tanzanians. Over one million people earn incomes from tourism. Its value chain supports parks, conservation and community-based wildlife management areas, farmers, transporters, fuel stations, spare parts suppliers, builders, tent manufacturers, suppliers of food and drinks.

However, the country could do better had its numerous challenges been addressed.

The aim is to attract 2 million tourists in 2020. But problems abound. Poaching, a shortage of hotel rooms, multiple taxes, poor infrastructure and inadequate promotion funds are weighing the industry down.

Elephant poaching is alarming. Over the past six years, more than 80,000 elephants have been killed for their ivory. Recently, British pilot Roger Gower died, when people suspected to be poachers shot at his helicopter as he helped the authorities to track them.

Other threats to tourism are loss of natural habitat through human activities that are incompatible with conservation interests. Poor farming, overstocking of livestock, deforestation and use of pesticides are among such problems.

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Figures by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism indicate that Tanzania has 174 registered tourist hotels with a total room capacity of 21,929.

They are inadequate to accommodate the rising number of holidaymakers. Multiple taxes, levies and fees on tourism make Tanzania an expensive destination.

Tour operators complain that they are subjected to 32 different taxes, 12 being business registration and regulatory licence fees as well as 11 duties for each tourist vehicle per annum and nine others.

High costs rile businesses

An assessment of Tanzanian tourism indicates that it involves a lot of time and money for businesses to complete licence tax and levy paperwork. For instance, a tour operator spends over four months to complete regulatory paperwork, whereas tax and licence paperwork consume 745 hours per year. A report by the Tanzania Confederation of Tourism and BEST-D shows that the average annual cost of personnel to complete the regulatory paperwork per local tour operator is Sh2.9 million annually.

All these costs are passed on to consumers, making Tanzania expensive and place tourism in a disadvantaged position.

It is small wonder that some players think it is cheap to pay penalties for doing business illegally than to comply with the complex tax regime. Moreover, while other African destinations have set out big budgets to market their tourist attractions, Tanzania spends less than $4 million on marketing and promotion tourism annually.

This is a far cry from Kenya that plans to spend $50.83 million this fiscal year on promoting tourism.

Kenya has also waived landing fees for charter flights to the coast, reduced park entry fees for tourists and urged operators to modernise their facilities. We call on the government to intensify its campaign against poaching, improve the business environment to attract more investors in tourist hotels, tackle multiple taxes, improve infrastructure and increase funding it tourism promotion. Let’s make Tanzania a leading tourism destination.